On the discrimination of youth

Bata pa kasi si Poe, ano? (Poe is still young, isn’t she?)” commented a colleague the day after the telecast of the first of the #PiliPinasDebates2016.

“Uh-hmmm,” I said by way of response. Her comment brought a weight of thoughts to my head.

This colleague is in her fifties. Grace Poe on the other hand is, what? Forty seven– approaching 50 herself. That’s not ‘bata’ (young). She just looks young. She just is youthful.

The judgment made on Poe’s age opens up a broader concern and observation which is, why the bias against young people, youth, and youthfulness?

How old were lieutenants and soldiers in the two World Wars? How old were the generals? Yet, they were placed in positions of trust and they did deliver on their objectives, and more.

Why, how old was Queen Elizabeth II when she assumed the throne? Her forebears, Elizabeth I and Victoria when they became rulers of the empire?

How old was Joan of Arc? The saints and martyrs when they heeded the call?

How old was Mandela when he addressed the court to defend himself? JFK when he became President? Obama?

How old was Jose Rizal when he was executed? Andres Bonifacio? Ferdinand Marcos when he became President? Benigno Aquino when he confronted Marcos?

How old were those who revolutionized technology?

Definitely not old, everyone of them.

A few months ago, I hired a young person to be responsible for the program side of operations. The staff who held the position had resigned after more than a decade with the organization.

The young applicant had just a few months of work experience. He was also a former sponsored child, meaning, he had for years participated in the organization’s programs and was trained to lead besides.

In the interview, I engaged his thoughts on probable situations and general topics. Before the interview was through, I was convinced he is someone who can be trusted to deliver given the right training and support. Most of all, he was in a good way confident that he can.

Hiring from within this pool of trained young leaders in the person of the new hire was, I learned, the first for the organization.

Not long after that, a Board member in a meeting alluded to the hiring. He said something about the new hire being young and such. But because he did not directly address that to me, I ignored the remark. Also I was sure that a response from me at the time would not help clarify his understanding on the matter.

Three months hence, now, the new hire has proved he is indeed trustworthy, reliable, and quick to learn the trade. And everybody including the Board are happy with him.

That in effect is my “delayed” response to the Board member.

My point was, how could my organization claim to be advocates for children and young people when we don’t even look within our own pool of young people?

Although, it also had to do with how it was for me when I was a fresh graduate myself. Somebody believed in me despite my youth and obvious lack of experience. I was treated as an equal. I was given important assignments. They trusted me to deliver. So I did.     

One has to start somewhere. And somewhere is not when one’s already stooped, frail, and forgetful which by the way has an equivalent term in accounting: fully depreciated. At that phase of life, one’s role is best geared toward coaching, mentoring, and the like.   

JFK’s timeless call to young people is not meant only for the youth. It carries a corresponding challenge to the rest of the crowd: Trust young people when they do come forward.

At the same time, a call to examine deep-seated fears relative to young people: The fear of letting go of the wheel to young people’s modern ways and ideals. The fear of losing grip on the future. The fear of becoming irrelevant. The fear of uncertainty, the unknown, and unfamiliar if and when control is passed onto the hands of young people.

The future regardless of such fears inevitably belongs to the young now.    

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